JSU's Town Meeting
Jamie M. Eubanks
JSU News Bureau
JACKSONVILLE -- October 22, 2001 -- What can we do to help? What is anthrax and how can I tell if someone has it? Are local authorities being trained to deal with bioterrorism? And what does the religion of Islam say about terrorism?
After the events of September 11, many were left with numerous doubts, fears and questions. Tuesday, October 16, Jacksonville State University held a town hall meeting to answer some of those questions. “Terrorism: What the Public Needs to Know” was sponsored by JSU’s Department of Criminal Justice.
A panel of experts gave brief presentations and then allowed citizens to ask questions and make comments.
“Our enemy is not unique,” says Bob Benson, instructor of criminal justice at JSU. “The same type of acts were seen in Pearl Harbor. We stood steadfastly then and I’m sure we will do the same in the future.”
Dr. Brenda Phillips, professor in JSU’s Institute for Emergency Preparedness, spoke of some students’ perspectives from their jobs in military or emergency management systems. Because JSU has the only online emergency preparedness course, they have students across the nation and they are able to keep in touch with them.
“We have witnessed the best of the American spirit. First responders ran into the building knowing they may not come out alive. Some stayed behind in the buildings to help comfort others. Passengers fought to save lives on the ground and strangers attended funerals.”
Phillips says in times like these America takes care of one another. Due to her work with the American Red Cross, she knows first hand what is needed in a disaster. “Don’t send stuff,” says Phillips. “The best thing anyone can send is money. And if they can’t afford to send money, some neighborhoods have held garage sales to raise funds.”
Old clothes and canned goods pile up in warehouses because they can’t be used or sorted through quickly enough to be distributed. Monetary donations allow the Red Cross to purchase clothes that fit children, teens and adults and help get families on their feet.
Anthrax has been around for years, and Dr. James Yates, who practices internal medicine at the Jacksonville Mediplex, says there are three strains of the bacteria: cutaneous, gastrointestinal, and inhalation forms.
Cutaneous, which means of the skin, is the most common form. This is also the form most commonly found in the mail. It causes a black lesion on the skin and in two weeks, usually hardens and goes away. “Only 20 percent of these cases become infected with the disease,” says Yates.
Gastrointestinal anthrax can develop in the mouth or intestines. Orally, a person would develop ulcers in the mouth and esophagus. In the intestines, cramps and bleeding occur.
The inhaled form of anthrax is the strain of most concern. The beginning symptoms are much like flu symptoms; body aches and low grade fever. Especially with flu season just around the corner, Dr. Yates says there may be no way of knowing which strain a person has until it is too late.
Anthrax cannot live in the environment very long. Therefore, it produces spores that allow it to survive for centuries. The bacteria itself becomes dormant. When the spores are breathed in, the bacteria usually become active when the body realizes it is a foreign substance and starts to attack it. But if the spores are detected early enough, a person may be “colonized with the bacteria but not infected by it,” says Yates.
And early detection is the key. With antibiotics, anthrax can be quickly stopped.
Local authorities are now being trained to handle such biological weapons. Marion Cain, Deputy Director for the Center for Domestic Preparedness at Fort McClellan, says it could take a federal team of experts up to twelve hours to respond to a biological attack. That is why they are training fire captains, police chiefs and other emergency personnel what to do in such a case.
“Fifteen or twenty years ago, fire fighters only had to worry about structural fires or an automobile accident, now they may be dispatched to chemical warfare and not know it,” says Cain. “We are giving these first responders the skills to save themselves, save their friends and neighbors and save property.”
Cain says these trainees then go back to their hometowns and educate them. In Calhoun County alone, 170 first responders are equipped with this knowledge.
Dr. Ayman Zayed, who practices internal medicine and endocrinology at Anniston Medical Clinic, offered some insight into Islam concerning the recent attacks.
“Terrorism, as defined by the Koran, is any unjust act associated with damage. Murder is unacceptable,” says Zayed.
And while these acts were unjust, Zayed also says retaliation by force is also wrong. “I am against force as a means to prevent terrorism. By bombing we should expect them to respond with force.”
Many Americans are wondering why anyone would want to perform such violent acts. “They don’t like America for some reason or other,” says Zayed. “They don’t despise Americans as people, they are not happy with its international policy in general.”
Zayed also offered some of the following possible reasons: The United States is a super power. During Desert Storm, America failed to get rid of the criminal and this causes them to resent the U.S. Finally, Zayed says these people feel that they are oppressed and may see America as their oppressor.
This town meeting brought a community together and answered some questions that many citizens had. But many were left still unanswered. However, in times of disaster, “it is necessary that we come together,” says Dr. Brenda Phillips. “We have faith in each other and take comfort in each other.”
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